A new study published in Gastroenterology discussed a possible new tool in helping overweight or obese children shed off the unwanted pounds. According to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), prebiotics can help reduce body fat in children by modifying their gut microbiota.
“This is a well-designed trial that demonstrates how a prebiotic could potentially help combat one of the most prevalent and costly conditions afflicting children in the developed world – overnutrition – by targeting the gut microbiome,” said Geoffrey A. Preidis, MD, PhD, member of the AGA Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education scientific advisory board. The evidence is promising because it showed that altering the gut microbiota can help restore health. Dr. Preidis hopes to have further research into prebiotics to discover new ways to treat obesity.
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. These act as “fertilizers” for bacteria that’s already present inside the body (probiotics) to encourage growth and improve the ratio of good and bad bacteria in our systems, which is important in ensuring overall health.
Prebiotics offer a variety of health benefits. They are known to have a positive effect on the digestive system. They are also known to improve mental health. Neurobiologists at Oxford University found that there’s a significant link to gut bacteria and mental health in humans. The research showed that prebiotics may help treat anxiety and depression.
Researchers from the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, studied a group of children aged seven to 12 who were healthy yet classified as overweight or obese. They were randomly assigned groups and provided with either oligofructose-enriched inulin (OI), a prebiotic fiber in the form of white powder, or placebo once a day for 16 weeks.
“Powdered fiber, mixed in a water bottle, taken once a day is all we asked the children to change, and we got, what we consider, some pretty exciting results – it has been fantastic,” said study lead author Raylene A. Reimer, PhD, RD, professor and researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology at University of Calgary.
After four months, children who took OI showed a 3.1 percent decrease in body weight z-score, 2.4 percent body fat reduction, and 3.8 percent decrease in trunk fat. Those who were given placebo, on the other hand, had a 0.5 percent and 0.05 percent increase, and decrease of 0.3 percent, respectively. Kids who received OI significantly reduced their levels of interleukin 6 (IL6) by 15 percent compared to the placebo group which increased by 25 percent. They also showed a notable decrease in serum triglycerides (19 percent).
Childhood obesity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is among the most serious public health challenges of the modern times. Its scope is global and affects many kids from low to middle-income families. It’s so prevalent that in 2015, the number of overweight children under five years old was approximately more than 42 million. What’s even more alarming is that kids who are obese or overweight are more likely to stay that way into adulthood, which means they are also at risk of acquiring diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a young age. These kids are also more likely to develop musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis and certain types of cancers like endometrial, breast, and colon cancers.
WHO reports that at least 2.6 million people die each year as a result of being overweight. To minimize its risks, they recommend an increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts; limit sugar, energy intake from total fats and consume only unsaturated fats; and get at least 60 minutes of regular, moderate, or intense physical activity.
The AGA study proved how prebiotics produced a positive outcome in children with weight issues; that prebiotics have a more significant effects on gut bacteria compared to placebo.